James' championship attainment not only represented the end of a very intricate, nearly decade long pursuit on his own behalf, but also heightened the sense of urgency and disappointment behind 'Melo's inability to have done the same.
The 2003 NBA draft was a breeding ground for star caliber talent, and with James—and Chris Bosh's—latest victory, four of the top five picks now hold championship hardware, including Darko Milicic.
Anthony's ability to obtain a ring is doubted more than anyone else's in the league, even more so than Dwight Howard's and Steve Nash's. When James finally won a championship, Anthony became the league's highest profile player without a title to his name.
Subsequently, 'Melo is now staring down the barrel of a 2012-13 campaign that holds as much pressure, as many doubters and the same level of criticism James faced through this past summer; Anthony is officially this season's version of King James.
We've already discussed how LeBron's greatest victory has rendered Anthony the most polarizing player in the league, but it's time to truly acknowledge the gravity of what 'Melo is facing.
There is no other superstar to relieve some of the championship-less burden off Anthony's shoulders; 'Melo is officially in a league all his own, one where questions, criticism and doubters run rampant.
And as one of the league's most scrutinized players already, that's a problem.
We can question Anthony's drive to win all we want, but the fact is he has never wavered in his will to succeed; the question is not whether Anthony wants it enough, it's whether he himself is enough to get it.
Is Anthony a prominent enough leader to take the Knicks past the first round of the playoffs? Is he talented enough to not only lead a mediocre charge, but a championship contending one as well? And is he going to be able to handle the pressure that comes with being the NBA's biggest name without a title?
James faced many of the same questions heading into last season as well, and while the end clearly came to justify the means, there remains one grave difference between him and New York's centerpiece: James has always been a winner; Anthony has not.
Though it took James nine years to snag a ring, he had fallen just short on numerous occasions. Anthony, though, has made it out of the first round of the playoffs just once, a discouraging reality that has been highly publicized since his days in Denver.
But now is the time such shortcomings get worse and become even more magnified under the microscope. Anthony has battled selfish, team cancer and overrated labels for almost 10 years, and now's the time he's going to be forced to put up or shut up.
Because like James, Anthony has been given adequate time to become acclimated to his star-laden powerhouse. But unlike James, he has failed to prove that he is closer to winning a title than he was five years ago.
And how can we consider Anthony to be one of the most clutch players in the game when he has ultimately failed to deliver—or even set foot on—the NBA's biggest stage?
We can't, and we shouldn't. Until recently, James was considered a perennial choke-artist himself, so 'Melo must be in the same boat. It's not about fourth-quarter performances, nor is it about about game-winning conversions, it's about a long-term commitment that has not only been headlined by effort, but results.
In all reality, Anthony is one of the hardest working players in the game. Sure, his defense is suspect and his willingness to create for his teammates is as enigmatic as Dennis Rodman's fashion preferences, but he's a bull dog at the rim and on the glass.
But you know what? That effort, that drive to succeed means little without actual success. Because while championship rings can be considered overrated, they set the tone and lay the groundwork for a player's legacy; their presence—or lack thereof— directly impacts how an athlete is remembered once he hangs up his laces for good.
And right now, just as it was for James but a year ago, Anthony's legacy is shrouded in disappointment, tainted by the absence of a ring, and crippled by the inability to capture the league's crowning achievement.
James was ultimately able to elude any permanent damage to escape such a reality, but will Anthony prove capable of doing the same? Can he silence a majority of critics by reaching the one milestone he hasn't even come close to achieving?
That's solely up to him because the grace period—if there was ever really one to begin with—has concluded; the time for 'Melo to win it all is now, not later.
Lest he be remembered as the failure everyone once made LeBron out to be.
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